Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007
By Shelley Grieshop
July 4 holiday deadliest travel day for motorists
Heavy local law enforcement presence expected
  Today and Wednesday - the Fourth of July - are the deadliest days of the year to travel on America's highways.
Law enforcement officers are very aware of the statistics and are again this year warning motorists to obey the speed limit, wear seat belts, and stay attentive and sober as they travel this holiday week.
"There's typically more traffic out there, more people on the road," said Lt. John Carrico, commander of the Wapakoneta post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. "With the lake up here, we have a lot of people coming in and out of the area. We just ask everyone to drive safely."
This year, the July Fourth celebration falls in the middle of the week, creating a shorter enforcement period unlike the three-day holidays of Labor Day and Memorial Day. But that doesn't mean there'll be less people on the road. Despite high gas prices, the AAA expects a record number of people to hit the road for family gatherings, parties and even to jumpstart vacations.
Independence Day is the most lethal day for drivers across the country followed closely by July 3, according to the National Safety Council. The organization estimates 548 traffic fatalities and 28,500 disabling injuries will occur during this year's holiday period, which officially begins at 6 p.m. today and ends just before midnight Wednesday.
The NSC also estimates that 174 lives across the country will be saved this holiday if people buckle up before traveling. In Ohio in 2006, there were four traffic deaths and 428 injury crashes that occurred on July 3 and 4; 75 percent were alcohol-related, the state patrol reported.
Carrico said "pretty much 100 percent of our people are working" today and Wednesday. Approximately five OSP cruisers will be out and about in both Mercer and Auglaize counties monitoring traffic, he added.
Auglaize County Sheriff Larry Longsworth said he's not beefing up his patrol but is asking motorists to use caution now and throughout the summer.
"People are heading to festivals, there are more motorcycles out there, farm equipment and joggers," he said. "We want everyone to have fun but be aware of their surroundings and give themselves plenty of time to get where they're going."
Traffic is expected to be heavy this week in the Auglaize and Shelby county areas as thousands of people head to the Country Concert in the Hills in rural Fort Loramie. The four-day country music event kicks off Thursday.
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